The perfect dessert (Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake)

I prefer to regard a dessert as I would imagine the perfect woman:  subtle, a little bittersweet, not blowsy and extrovert.  Delicately made up, not highly rouged.  Holding back, not exposing everything and, of course, with a flavor that lasts.

~Graham Kerr

I love that quote, because it perfectly sums up my feelings about dessert. I’ve had a raging sweet-tooth all my life, but people always assume that means I love fudge, baked cheesecake, milk chocolate, and all things rich and sugary. Truth is, that stuff makes me sick to my stomach, just isn’t appealing at all. But give me a light or moderately-sweet dessert and I’m in heaven. That’s one reason why lemony treats always intrigue me (EXCEPT cloyingly-sweet lemon bars). You can have your sugar, but the lemon’s tartness and acidity balance it out nicely. And this cheesecake might be the perfect dessert—light, textured, sweet, tart, airy, creamy goodness.

I pinned this recipe several months ago, one of the first after I joined Pinterest. Secretly, I kind of thought that I wouldn’t ever make it, because it required a little more work than I typically put into cooking before I started this blog.

There are few things that smell better than fresh lemon zest…

Start by crushing about a pack and a half of graham crackers into crumbs. I really hate this part, so I just threw them in my food processor and pulverized them.

Problem solved.

Combine with the melted butter. I actually wouldn’t recommend doing this in your food processor like I did (harder to get out), just do it in the pan itself.

Pour the crumbs into the dish and press into a crust. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the crust is golden.

In a mixer with good attachments, beat the cream cheese on low for about 30 seconds.

Add the ricotta, sugar, lemon zest and juice to the cream cheese, mixing on low for another 30 seconds.

Turn the mixer up to medium and add the three eggs, mixing just enough to get them integrated—you don’t want to over-mix.

If you have a large roasting pan, put some water in the bottom. I didn’t, so I used my nice cookie sheet. Yay for MacGyver cooking!

Pour the filling into the now-cool crust. There was some leftover filling that I just ate straight out of the bowl…so good! Could have just eaten the cheesecake now, but it would have been a little messy (and, you know, all the raw eggs).

Place the pie pan (or springform) in the roasting pan or wherever you’ve put the water bath. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until it’s firm and only moves slightly when the pan is shaken. Let cool for at least 30 minutes.

The recipe says to chill for at least six hours, but we devoured it right away, only an hour after it came out of the oven. It was light, with a slight graininess from the ricotta, sweet, tart, and awesome. I will definitely be making it again in the future.

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake
  • 6 ounces of graham crackers (about a package and a half, or half a box)
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted (about 6 tablespoons)
  • 7 ounces of cream cheese, softened; note, I used the full 8-ounce package, because there weren’t 7-ounce ones)
  • 7 ounces of ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • Juice and zest of a lemon

Preheat the oven to 350. Finely grind the graham crackers in a food processor. Add the melted butter and process until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom and sides of a pie dish or 8-inch springform pan. Bake about 15 minutes, until the crust is golden. Cool the crust completely on a cooling rack.

Meanwhile work on the filling. In a mixer, beat cream cheese for about 20 seconds. Add the ricotta, sugar, lemon juice and zest, and mix on low for 30 seconds more, scraping the sides of the bowl. Turn up to medium speed and add the eggs one by one, mix just until well combined. You shouldn’t overmix the batter. Pour the batter into the cooled crust. Then place the baking dish in a large roasting pan (if you have one). Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the pie dish or springform pan. Note, I didn’t have a big roasting pan, so I just used a cookie sheet with shallow sides, put a small amount of water in the bottom, and placed the pie dish on the cookie sheet as well.

Bake until the cheesecake is firm and moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes to an hour. Transfer the cheesecake to a cooling rack to cool for 30 minutes. Place in the refrigerator and cool completely, at least 6 hours and up to 2 days (we totally broke this and ate it about an hour after it came out of the oven—still delicious!

Original recipe:


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